We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 NLT
One of the things about enduring under problems and trials is that it produces character. As much as I would love to believe that I am prepared for the fullness of what God has planned for my life, I know I am not. I may not participate in the things that once held me captive, but there are parts of my character that God still has to change. Things that would hold back the work that He wants to do through me.
Each trial I go through either changes my character or it strengthens it. I look back over my life and thing about how I have changed. Some things are gone from my life. Other things God has taken me from trial to trial and increased my hope.
When my father died I was so angry at God. I walked away from God and went down some dark paths for a while. His death was about the same time as the big “Faith – Name it and claim it” movement. I had to sort out my faith and determine what I really believed. I eventually came to terms with the fact that sometimes healing doesn’t happen this side of heaven and there were more factors than just my faith at play when my father died. When my mother was placed on hospice, I was really concerned about how I would respond with her death. As I walked through her illness, final days and death I had such a peace that surpassed my understanding. God had changed my character through those two trials.
Another trial that I have faced several times through the years are when it comes to church. I quit going to church when I was between twelve and thirteen years old. I saw such hypocrisy from church goers that I decided I didn’t want any part of it. I had the Word planted in my life, so God still reminded me of his presence, but I really didn’t want any part of organized religion.
When I got back into church at eighteen, God placed in my life some very genuine believers – not perfect but authentic. A few walked with me through some really tough things over the next few years. Then one of the pastors committed adultery with a member of the congregation definitely an hypocritical thing. It rocked the church. I realized he was just a man and men are fallen creatures. I continued attending under the associate pastor until the death of my father.
A few years later, I moved away. I purposed to try church again. I lived in a college town and the little church I found like the one I had attended didn’t have any children’s programs during the summer, so I never connected. Instead I learned to get into God’s Word for myself. I started teaching my children scriptures, praying with them and doing daily devotions and bible reading. We continued doing almost daily devotions until they reached high school. I have gotten into the Word for myself since that time.
The summer following our move, we spent with my mother. We went to church with her under the pastor that had preached my father’s funeral. My children got used to going to church and so when me went home we found a church and got involved. II could never have known that I would face the most devastating loss of my best friend at that time. I was again angry at God. I didn’t understand, but I also didn’t run. I sat there and talked to Him in my anger. God showed up in very tangible ways during that time. He made me aware of his presence through complete strangers.
We moved two more times and throughout that time I continued in church and I continued in my personal walk with Christ. I wasn’t consistent with my own quiet time, but daily devotions with the children and preparing for lessons for the children’s ministries where I volunteered. Then I was faced with yet another hypocritical situation that cut me to the core because it was personal. It broke my heart, as I know it did God’s. I just left the church I was attending and started driving an hour one way to church with my children. I have been under the same pastors since that time.
God took my faith through that journey from hypocrisy to realizing that church is filled with fallen people and that includes pastors. He developed my character to not look to men for what only He can provide. He showed me the importance of seeking Him for myself, but also of not forsaking the assembly with other believers.
If we allow Him to, God will walk us through every test and trial. Some will change the very character of who we are. Others, He will strengthen us through it. He will grow our character. If we will let Him use those tests and trials as opportunities, He will not disappoint us.
This blog is part of a #Write31Days series on growth. 31 Days is an online writing challenge, where bloggers pick one topic and write a post on that topic every day.